Tajikistan’s Wild East | Photo Essay

Tajikistan is one of the few remaining truly off-the-beaten-track travel experiences left in the world. This corner of Central Asia was wracked by civil war for many years but is now stable and open to tourists.

Travel south and east from the capital of Dushanbe along the M41. In the lush Wakhan Valley Afghanistan is at times only a stone’s throw away across the river. Then it’s up across a 4,655m pass onto the breathtaking Pamir highway. You’ll find ancient otherworldly landscapes, ancient rock drawings and geoglyphs, semi-nomadic herders with their yurts and Soviet-built wild east towns.

The Farsi-speaking Tajiks are curious and welcoming of visitors and I encountered some overwhelming hospitality. Here is a photo essay representing some highlights of landscapes and people:

The M41 "highway" through the Wakhan follows the Panj River that forms the border with Afghanistan.

The M41 “highway” through the Wakhan follows the Panj River that forms the border with Afghanistan.

One of the many families who took offered hospitality in their homes on the journey.

One of the many families who took offered hospitality in their homes on the journey.

Children in the Wakhan Valley who begged me to take their photo but were then overcome with shyness.

Children in the Wakhan Valley who begged me to take their photo but were then overcome with shyness.

At last the high Pamir plateau, like another world.

At last the high Pamir plateau, like another world.

The spectacular lake of Yashil-kul, ringed with snowy peaks.

The spectacular lake of Yashil-kul, ringed with snowy peaks.

 

Children in the isolated village of Bulunkul.

Children in the isolated village of Bulunkul.

The exquisite clear water spring of Ak-Bkyl beside the Pamir highway.

The exquisite clear water spring of Ak-Bkyl beside the Pamir highway.

A Kyrgyz man in the town of Murghab.

A Kyrgyz man in the town of Murghab.

Small herds of yaks and sheep are run by Kyrgyz semi-nomadic herdsmen who live in yurts during the summer months.

Small herds of yaks and sheep are run by Kyrgyz semi-nomadic herdsmen who live in yurts during the summer months.

Lake Karakul, on the last leg of the journey through Tajikistan towards the border with Kyrgyzstan.

Lake Karakul, on the last leg of the journey through Tajikistan towards the border with Kyrgyzstan.

Natasha von Geldern is the Wandering Kiwi, a travel blogger, writer and editor who is passionate about discovering and covering the world, inspiring online travel lovers everywhere.

55 Comments

  1. Nancy Mancini on October 11, 2011 at 9:58 am

    Spectacular photos, particularly the last.  Thank you.
    Nancy

  2. Nancy Mancini on October 11, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Spectacular photos, particularly the last.  Thank you.
    Nancy

  3. Ahimsa Kerp on October 11, 2011 at 11:13 am

    These pictures are flippin’ unreal.  Thanks for the article.

  4. Ahimsa Kerp on October 11, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    These pictures are flippin’ unreal.  Thanks for the article.

  5. vegemitevix on October 11, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Wonderful travel essay Natasha, couldn’t help reflecting how much the landscape reminds me of parts of the South Island but then of course the donkey and the yurt and the architecture gives the location away.

    • Natasha von geldern on October 11, 2011 at 6:17 pm

      It’s funny how an empty landscape, green and blue, anywhere in the world reminds us of New Zealand 🙂

  6. vegemitevix on October 11, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    Wonderful travel essay Natasha, couldn’t help reflecting how much the landscape reminds me of parts of the South Island but then of course the donkey and the yurt and the architecture gives the location away.

    • Natasha von geldern on October 11, 2011 at 7:17 pm

      It’s funny how an empty landscape, green and blue, anywhere in the world reminds us of New Zealand 🙂

  7. Joe on October 11, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    Wow this place is beautiful! Definitely adding this to my list of places to visit one day!

    I feel stupid reading this though, I had to google Tajikistan because I had never even heard of it before. And I like to think I am wordly and know my geography…

    Anyway great pictures.

  8. Joe on October 11, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    Wow this place is beautiful! Definitely adding this to my list of places to visit one day!

    I feel stupid reading this though, I had to google Tajikistan because I had never even heard of it before. And I like to think I am wordly and know my geography…

    Anyway great pictures.

  9. Jacqueline on October 12, 2011 at 1:29 am

    Beautiful pics, amazing! Well done Natas!! Love Jacqy

  10. Jacqueline on October 12, 2011 at 2:29 am

    Beautiful pics, amazing! Well done Natas!! Love Jacqy

  11. Satu on October 12, 2011 at 2:31 am

    Beautiful! Some of those photos remind me a little of Ladakh in India.

  12. Soulshine25 on October 12, 2011 at 1:54 am

    Beautiful, amazing. Another world.

  13. Soulshine25 on October 12, 2011 at 2:54 am

    Beautiful, amazing. Another world.

  14. Satu on October 12, 2011 at 3:31 am

    Beautiful! Some of those photos remind me a little of Ladakh in India.

  15. Turkey's For Life on October 12, 2011 at 7:41 am

    Absolutely stunning photographs. Amazing scenery. Tajikistan probably isn’t at the top of many people’s lists but I bet this post has just made it much more popular.
    Julia

  16. Turkey's For Life on October 12, 2011 at 8:41 am

    Absolutely stunning photographs. Amazing scenery. Tajikistan probably isn’t at the top of many people’s lists but I bet this post has just made it much more popular.
    Julia

  17. Andi Perullo on October 12, 2011 at 10:17 am

    Wow these are gorgeous photos, would love to visit there some day!

  18. Andi Perullo on October 12, 2011 at 11:17 am

    Wow these are gorgeous photos, would love to visit there some day!

  19. idelish on October 12, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    *LOVE* the pictures. I especially love blogs that share large sized images! Tajikistan reminds me of our recent trip to Leh with similar yurts, snow peaked mountains and blue lakes dotting the landscape!

  20. idelish on October 12, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    *LOVE* the pictures. I especially love blogs that share large sized images! Tajikistan reminds me of our recent trip to Leh with similar yurts, snow peaked mountains and blue lakes dotting the landscape!

  21. Dean Wickham on October 12, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    Amazing photos. Wow, what a beautiful place.

  22. Dean Wickham on October 12, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    Amazing photos. Wow, what a beautiful place.

  23. Nomadic Samuel on October 12, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    I’m not going to say anything profound – this is an awesome photo essay!

  24. Nomadic Samuel on October 12, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    I’m not going to say anything profound – this is an awesome photo essay!

  25. Gerard ~ GQtrippin on October 13, 2011 at 2:42 am

    Love the photos. Esp the old guy w/ donkey! 

  26. Gerard ~ GQtrippin on October 13, 2011 at 3:42 am

    Love the photos. Esp the old guy w/ donkey! 

  27. CWBush on October 14, 2011 at 1:57 am

    I had no idea that Tajikistan had such a stark beauty to it. Beautiful photos!

  28. CWBush on October 14, 2011 at 2:57 am

    I had no idea that Tajikistan had such a stark beauty to it. Beautiful photos!

  29. PamMktgNut on October 14, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    Wow! These images are absolutely beautiful Natasha. Thanks so much for sharing. 

  30. PamMktgNut on October 14, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    Wow! These images are absolutely beautiful Natasha. Thanks so much for sharing. 

  31. Skatewingit on October 23, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    Natasha, I am wondering how you get around these remote places? Do you hire a guide, buy a car…?
    Also, what month was this trip on?

  32. Skatewingit on October 23, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    Natasha, I am wondering how you get around these remote places? Do you hire a guide, buy a car…?
    Also, what month was this trip on?

  33. Angie_main on November 30, 2011 at 7:47 am

    beautiful images! was it easy to get around? angie

  34. Angie_main on November 30, 2011 at 8:47 am

    beautiful images! was it easy to get around? angie

  35. Cherina | Quiet Wanderings on December 1, 2011 at 11:43 pm

    Wonderful photos! I love off-the-beaten-track destinations and this looks amazing. Would love to visit some of the ‘stans’.

  36. Cherina | Quiet Wanderings on December 2, 2011 at 12:43 am

    Wonderful photos! I love off-the-beaten-track destinations and this looks amazing. Would love to visit some of the ‘stans’.

  37. Ann Lee on December 3, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    Stunning images! It would be great to visit countries like this. 🙂

  38. Ann Lee on December 3, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    Stunning images! It would be great to visit countries like this. 🙂

  39. Abi on December 5, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    Wonderful images, just wonderful.

  40. Abi on December 5, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    Wonderful images, just wonderful.

  41. AlexBerger on December 6, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    A wonderful insight into a difficult area. Beautiful.

  42. AlexBerger on December 6, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    A wonderful insight into a difficult area. Beautiful.

  43. Kurt Trumble on December 12, 2011 at 11:26 am

    Wow… I have wanted to visit Tajikistan, but haven’t had the chance yet.  This bumped it up my list a bit!

  44. Kurt Trumble on December 12, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Wow… I have wanted to visit Tajikistan, but haven’t had the chance yet.  This bumped it up my list a bit!

  45. The Traveling Fool on December 13, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Great Photos. I have been in Uzbekistan and Afghanistan and a lot of it looks the same, especially the mountains. It is a picturesque area and full of character.

  46. The Travel Fool on December 13, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Great Photos. I have been in Uzbekistan and Afghanistan and a lot of it looks the same, especially the mountains. It is a picturesque area and full of character.

  47. Chandra81 on December 28, 2011 at 2:34 am

    Every pictures are worth thousand words…amazing captures

  48. Nikhil Chandra on December 28, 2011 at 3:34 am

    Every pictures are worth thousand words…amazing captures

  49. Sean on September 27, 2012 at 10:39 am

    I <3 Tajikistan! my homeland.  what a beautiful nature, thumb up

  50. Sean on September 27, 2012 at 11:39 am

    I <3 Tajikistan! my homeland.  what a beautiful nature, thumb up

  51. Marysia @ My Travel Affairs on May 23, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Spectacular! I so want to travel more in this region, I have only been in Kazakhstan so far.

  52. Marysia @ My Travel Affairs on May 23, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Spectacular! I so want to travel more in this region, I have only been in Kazakhstan so far.

  53. meher on February 23, 2014 at 7:19 am

    stunning ……a definite must see

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